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Thursday
Feb142019

Book Review: The Patch of Green

The Patch of Green. Greg Kaup. Elk Park Press, October 17, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 289 pages.

Reviewed by Hallie Koontz.

The title of Greg Kaup’s slice-of-life, coming-of-age tale, The Patch of Green, serves as setting for a story in which the protagonist, Greg Garrity, undergoes a lifelong quest to repay his two best childhood friends for saving his life one stormy afternoon on Lake Michigan. The “patch of green” refers to a section of Rogers Park belonging to the parish of St. Ignatius Church, where Greg’s life journey begins.

The Patch of Green is perhaps too ambitious as a slice-of-life novel. The author describes some conversations and actions that seem unnecessary; detailed descriptions, that don't communicate any new information or character personality, often hinder the otherwise compelling narrative energy. Also, a bit too much effort is concentrated on creating emotional energy, often leading to the opposite result. For example, some dialogue is capitalized to communicate shouting, a technique that can overshadow any emotional intensity that might otherwise have shown through. The novel feels like a story told by an acquaintance at a party rather than a slice-of-life work of literary fiction, and it seems the facts of the protagonist’s life are dropped in one at a time rather than novelized. 

I felt that some facts about Greg’s life were worthy of further description and exploration but were pushed to the wayside. The author details how Greg breaks up with a girl he had seen for about a year before leaving for college. Later, the protagonist cheats on his significant other, but this event is never fully described. Although a longstanding affair later in the book is given attention, it is heavily implied but never acknowledged that this was a regular occurrence. Although we often get "hello, how are you" types of exchanges written out, many more valuable and interesting conversations are summarized instead. It is not that Kaup’s stories are not worth telling—they are; but it seems the focus of the writer’s craft is not honed on the right things. 

The story has a heartwarming conclusion, and Greg’s feeling that he must repay his best friends is a predicament that lends itself well to the slice-of-life genre. The friendship between the three characters is genuine—the beating heart of the novel—and this thread carries through the entire narrative, culminating in a pay-off that completes the story in a neat and effective manner. Kaup's story is sincere, and he conveys his energy and passion with emotionally poignant moments.

The Patch of Green is for readers who enjoy stories of personal growth and development and will interest Chicago natives who will enjoy reading about the city neighborhoods and local sites.

 

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